The pork industry is a significant contributor to the U.S. economy, annually producing more than 28 billion pounds of affordable, high-quality and nutritious meat protein to consumers here at home and around the globe. It requires a hardworking, year-round workforce on our farms and in processing plants. Unfortunately, U.S. pork producers are suffering from a significant labor shortage that, if not addressed, will constrain pork production and lead to serious challenges in our food supply chain.
Throughout the pork supply chain, we offer jobs with good pay and benefits, but most Americans do not live near our hog farms or harvest facilities, and rural populations continue to decline, causing us to be largely dependent on foreign-born workers. We’re proud of the diversity on our farms and across the pork production chain. For many foreign-born workers, a position in the U.S. pork industry has often created opportunity to come to the country and become an integral part of a community.
Unfortunately, current visa programs fail to address the workforce needs of U.S. pork produces and other year-round livestock farmers. This isn’t an isolated case affecting a handful of farms and processing plants; this is an industry-wide shortage that needs to be quickly addressed.
As debate on addressing agriculture labor reform moves through Congress, NPPC looks forward to working with lawmakers on meaningful labor reform that both opens the H-2A program to year-round labor without a cap and provides legal status for agricultural workers already in the country.
U.S. pork producers help feed the world, and expanding the H-2A visa program to allow for a year-round workforce will help ensure we can continue to provide affordable, high-quality protein to consumers here at home and around the world.
Jen Sorenson is president of the National Pork Producers Council and communications director for Iowa Select Farms in West Des Moines, Iowa.
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